Hundreds of flights axed as US kicks off long holiday weekend

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The travel chaos has drawn scrutiny from Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and others in Washington.

On Saturday Buttigieg put out a series of tweets that were essentially consumer tips on what to do if one’s flight is cancelled, like whether to accept travel points or miles as compensation or demand a cash refund.

“You can often negotiate on this. That’s between you and the airline,” Buttigieg wrote.

Delta pilots walked informational picket lines at several airports Thursday to demand a new contract and complain of overwork, among other gripes.

“Quite frankly, it’s irresponsible scheduling, over scheduling. Coming out of the pandemic, we’re scheduling more flights than we have people to fly them,” Delta pilots association union leader Jason Ambrosi told CNN on Saturday.

“The pilots are getting fatigued, quite honestly,” Ambrosi said. They do not want to strand travelers or crew members, he said, “but it’s a safety issue.”

Pilots are the most acute issue in a broad airline industry labor crunch, said Third Bridge analyst Peter McNally.

“There’s no short-term fix,” McNally told AFP. “The issue becomes most pronounced during these seasonal peaks.”

Airlines say they’re working to address the situation, recruiting pilots and other staff and trimming summer seat capacity by 15 percent.

While acknowledging the pilot supply problem, airline industry officials point to other exacerbating factors, including turbulent weather, increased staff absences due to Covid and insufficient personnel at flight traffic control at some sites.

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